The End

Major General John Brown Gordon, CSA

156 years ago today the Civil War ended in Wilmer Mclean’s parlor at the village of Appomattox Court House. It took 3 more days to draft the articles of surrender and it was determined that on April 12, 1865, the Confederate Army of the Northern Virginia would march to the Union line and surrender their weapons and flags. By this time Robert E. Lee had departed for ravaged Richmond, VA, and Ulysses Grant had returned to his headquarters at City Point, VA.

The honor of receiving the weapons and flags of the vanquised foe would be given to Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the former Professor of Modern Languages at Bowdoin College in Maine. As an honor guard, Chamberlain chose 3 brigades consisting of regiments that had fought in virtually every battle in the eastern theater of the war.

On the Confederate side, the somber occasion was to be under the command of the fearless and oft-wounded General John B. Gordon with the procession being led by the famous Stonewall Brigade of Virginia regiments originally commanded by Stonewall Jackson.

Both commands were in view of each other, resting on hills across a small valley. In 1904 Joshua Chamberlain described the event to the Southern Historical Society Papers, up until that time, there was no official report, statement, article, etc. written about this occasion.

Chamberlain describes the process of the Confederate troops as “an impressive and striking” sight to see their formidable former foes approaching. Given the significance of the event, Chamberlain felt compelled to offer a proper salute to the Confederates as each unit passed by.

Again, Chamberlain describes: “General Gordon was riding in advance of his troops, his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance almost beyond description. When General Gordon came opposite me I had the bugle blown and the entire line came to ‘attention,’ preparatory to executing this movement of the manual successively and by regiments as Gordon’s columns should pass before our front, each in turn”. At the sound of the bugle, the first Union regiments in line, as one, snapped to attention, slapping their rifles to their right shoulders in the “carry arms” position. Chamberlain’s words: “At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his swordpoint to his toe in salutation. By word of mouth General Gordon sent back orders to the rear that his own troops take the same position of the manual in the march past as did our line. That was done, and a truly imposing sight was the mutual salutation and farewell. At a distance of possibly twelve feet from our line, the Confederates halted and turned face towards us. Their lines were formed with the greatest care, with every officer in his appointed position, and thereupon began the formality of surrender.”

What ensued was a very heart rending scene. As the Confederate soldiers broke ranks to stack their weapons and flags, many of them fell to their knees, clutching their tattered banners, weeping openly. Many of the Unions soldiers stood upright at “carry arms” but with tears streaming down their faces as well.

Salute Of Arms

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